Longitudinal social and biomedical risk factors for incident dementia and cognitive decline in urban and regional Aboriginal Australians

Year: July 1, 2016


Program Overview:

The number of older Indigenous Australians is increasing rapidly, as is their proportion within Indigenous communities, and dementia has emerged as a significant concern. Recent studies have shown that dementia is 3-5 times more common in Aboriginal communities across remote, regional and urban Australia, when compared to non-Indigenous rates. Dementia often occurs at younger ages in these communities and Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type diagnosed.

However, risk factors for dementia in the majority urban and regional Aboriginal population are currently unknown.

This study will enable us to better understand the causes and factors contributing to these much higher rates of dementia in Aboriginal communities. It will draw on an extensive database of potential risk factors across the lifespan in a cohort of older

Aboriginal Australians and will follow these people up five years later to find out the incidence (new cases) of dementia in this population and the factors that predict cognitive decline and dementia onset. The study will also examine the impact of genetic, metabolic and inflammatory biomarkers.

Specifically, we will examine the following potential risk factors, acquired at Time 1, for cognitive decline and dementia. These factors are likely to be common to all populations but are known to affect Indigenous Australians at disproportionate rates.

  1. Social Risk Factors for cognitive decline & dementia: adverse childhood experiences, childhood separation, lack of formal (& informal) education; adverse socio-economic index
  2. Biomedical Risk Factors for cognitive decline and dementia: vascular (stroke, heart disease, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, lipids, smoking); traumatic brain injury; alcohol; depression

This project is an essential first step towards developing effective interventions to reduce the risk of dementia and prevent dementia in future. The study will build capacity in Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers, along with participating

Aboriginal community members and organisations. The results of the study will be translated into better outcomes for older Aboriginal people and their communities through the research team’s associated projects in dementia education, service provision and prevention. Study outcomes will inform public health policy and enable improved planning and more culturally appropriate dementia care services for older

Aboriginal people and support for their younger caregivers. The study will also provide insight, with a high risk population, into the potentially preventable causes of common dementia syndromes, notably Alzheimer’s disease, that will have significance across the entire Australian population and internationally.

Successful DCRC grant recipient 2016

Other team members:

Dr Kim Delbaere, NeuRA
Prof Peter Schofield, NeuRA
Prof Robert Cumming, University of Sydney